Would You Have Worshiped Caesar? Here’s How to Tell.

By John Zmirak Published on September 4, 2017

It’s fun sometimes to imagine how we would have acted if we had lived in another time and place. Had we grown up with different influences we might have turned out as different people. But there are real commonalities between each of us and those before us. We share the same human nature, which is fixed, and sullenly, stubbornly fallen. We face the same economy of salvation as every person since Christ’s resurrection. So with Christian history at least, we can look at past actors and muster genuine empathy.

What’s more, we need to do that to understand our present. To choose our future. So let me urge you to ask yourself these questions. Then I’ll offer some hints that will help you find the answer.

Worship Caesar

You’re an adult Christian in the age of Diocletian. You’ve just learned that the government has ordered you to burn a pinch of incense before an idol of the emperor. Do you:

  1. Boldly step forth and announce in public that you will do no such thing — no matter the consequences.
  2. Quietly decide to try to evade the law, but resolve that if it comes to it, you will suffer and die rather than do this.
  3. Quietly decide that if you can’t escape this choice via bribery or deception, you will burn the pinch of incense to save your skin and your children’s.
  4. Boldly step forth and denounce the Christian extremists who are throwing away their lives for a silly point of principle. God gave you life. He didn’t ask you to throw it away on a technicality. Doing that would just feed your pride, and stoke division in society.

The culture has suddenly decided that the church’s universal teaching on sexual morality, which goes back in its essentials to the Old Testament, is wrong. In fact, if you affirm it, you are a hatemonger. You are just as bad as the 1950s segregationists.

Accept Islam

You’re a Christian in Egypt right after the Muslim conquest. The Arab invaders have announced that every non-Muslim must pay a heavy, crippling tax. That you’ll live in a kind of Jim Crow segregation, as your churches slowly crumble since you’re forbidden to repair them. That you may not preach the Gospel, ring bells, or do anything else that might attract attention. Do you:

  1. Stand firm in the face of this conquest, and go right on acting as you did before. You hand out Christian tracts to Muslims, ring your church’s bells, and scoff at the consequences.
  2. Obey the letter of this new and evil law, resolving to spread the Gospel by example if by nothing else. You quietly help out families that face ruin thanks to the taxes.
  3. Go through the motions of converting to Islam. That will save your family from financial devastation. But you promise yourself that you’ll whisper the Gospel quietly to your children in the secrecy of your home.
  4. Loudly convert to Islam, pointing to the many common values it shares with Christianity. In fact, you affirm, at the deepest levels these faiths are really the same.

Join the Revolution

You’re a Catholic pastor in Poland in 1945. The Soviets have just “liberated” your country from the Nazis. And now they’re imposing their own totalitarian regime. They’re repressing the churches openly, but offering exemptions to “peace priests” willing to work with the government. Those priests get to keep their parishes, and even get money to use for poverty projects. Do you:

  1. Denounce the Communists from the pulpit, and accept the consequences, which might include prison or murder.
  2. Keep your head down, but refuse to cooperate with the government. You quietly offer refuge to believers hunted by the government.
  3. You pledge your allegiance to the regime to save your neck. Then you hunker down and hope for the best.
  4. You take a stance of principle on behalf of the Revolution. You ransack the gospels for high-minded justifications — and when you can, you turn in those pastors who have made other choices. You’re confident that by attaining a position of influence in the country you can make a positive difference.

Now we’re ready for the last question. Your answer to this one will tell you what you really would have done in situations one through three.

Build a Bridge to the LGBT Community

You’re a Christian in America in 2017. The culture has now decided that the Church’s universal teaching on sexual morality, which goes back in its essentials to the Old Testament, is wrong. In fact, if you affirm it, you’re deemed a hatemonger. You are just as bad as the 1950s segregationists, who were just as bad as the Confederates. And they were just as bad as the Nazis. Billion-dollar companies are declaring organizations “hate groups” just for affirming what every Christian did as late as 1960. Do you:

  1. Announce publicly that this new sexual heresy is just as wicked and destructive as previous ones. Commit yourself to fighting against its public acceptance, whatever the cost to the rest of your witness on other issues that you care about. Even if it means you will lose donations, employment options, or friends.
  2. Quietly refuse to accede to these new views. Join efforts to prevent them from being enforced by the government. Offer discreet assistance and private support to those who chose option 1.
  3. Silently dissent from these new ideas, but keep it secret. To make up for your prudent choice not to rock the boat on all these issues, you promise to work extra hard to feed the poor or something.
  4. Become a public spokesman on the Church’s need to change its blinkered views on sexual identity. Read the Bible selectively, with emphasis on the passages about “acceptance” and “forgiveness.” Accuse groups 1, 2, and 3 of being Pharisees. Don’t think too hard about the fact that now you’re in fact a Sadducee. You know, that group of Jews in Jesus’ time who picked and chose which parts of the Bible they believed in, and worked hand in glove with the pagan Roman occupiers.

Try to answer honestly, in a number 2 pencil, coloring only inside the circles. 

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Shucks, I can’t find my number 2 pencil .
    Will a magic marker do ….?

  • BroFrank

    Or . . . perhaps we should prepare to mark an “X” (or cross sign) in blood (Rev. 12:11).

  • Yuriy Yakymets

    … Imagine a dark tunnel, with red, flashing lights and a pre-recorded voice over the loudspeaker:
    Warning, this is not a drill!
    Warning, this is not a drill!
    Warning, this is not a drill! …

    Now go and find that pencil.

  • Patmos

    Some day even it’s supporters will realize how backwards The LGBT Movement is. Their lies and propaganda are already losing steam, in spite of the massive amounts of money behind it. The truth will continue to come out, about all the abuse that goes into making people sexually perverted and sexually confused.

    A house built on sand will collapse.

    • Chip Crawford

      How about exposure of the facts of the depression and suicide going on profusely behind the scenes …

  • Announce publicly that this new sexual heresy is just as wicked and destructive as previous ones. Commit yourself to fighting against its public acceptance, whatever the cost to the rest of your witness on other issues that you care about. Even if it means you will lose donations, employment options, or friends.
    9Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were cleansed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Cor. 6:9-11

  • Anne Fernandes

    Only one correct choice exists for each anecdote, but the choice is not the same even among believers. Listen I love love, but I won’t deliver love without truth or truth without love. His truth, His love, His word….renders one correct choice.

    • Zmirak

      Actually, I think option 2 also acceptable. The answers follow a pattern. Option 1) is heroically virtuous. Option 2) is the least you can do without sin. Option 3) is the fruit of fear or weakness, and Option 4) is self-seeking and devilishly proud.

  • TomaATL_AlKilo

    Dear John
    So what is your position on DACA?
    Don’t you think the racist faction of the GOP are shooting both feet off by turning away futur natural conservatives in the Hispanic community, those that will lead?
    How stupid is the GOP to follow the racist trash faction?
    Sincerely

    • Bob Adome

      You are the tolerant one, I suppose. There have always been considerations given to children and minors legally under the immigration process. DACA was another ploy to appease a certain party. Removing is nothing different. America do not rip the rug out from underneath people as you suppose.

  • BXVI

    This seem to have been written for Fr. Martin’s eyes. But the problem is that Fr. Martin has clearly been given the green light by the Vatican to push his view that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is cruel and that its stance toward homosexuals is hypocritical. He was named as a special communications advisor to the Vatican in the midst of his campaign to “build bridges” to the homosexual community by demanding a reform of Catholic doctrine (no longer disordered, merely differently ordered). This is all part and parcel of the push for communion for those who sleep with someone other than their actual spouse, because if active adulterers are welcome to partake of the Eucharist then active homosexuals must be as well. The logic is inexorable.

  • Trilemma

    Based on what Jesus taught in Luke 19:12-27, the Christian response would be either 2 or 3 in each scenario. In scenario number 4, a true Christian would set aside traditional beliefs and see what the Bible actually says in light of new arguments to see if new interpretations have merit.

    • ncsugrant

      A “true” Christian should already know what the Bible says about sexual sin, and should recognize that the culture of our lost world has been quite successful in the effort to destroy the church from within.
      As for your reference to Luke, I don’t see any application of that to any of the 4.

      • Trilemma

        In Luke 19:12-27, there were three responses to the ungodly king. There were those who openly opposed the king. They ended up being slaughtered. These represent option 1 from the scenarios. There were those who openly supported the king, even making money for him. They ended up being rewarded by the king. These represent option 4 from the scenarios. Then there was the one who did just enough to be neither punished nor rewarded. He represented either option 2 or 3 in the scenarios.

        • BPS

          You don’t seem to realized that the “king” in the parable was Jesus Christ, and the servants are all of us and how we use our “talents” to further the kingdom.

          • Trilemma

            Why would Jesus be likened to an ungodly king. The king in the parable is Herod Archelaus. Jesus was giving a lesson in survival.

          • ncsugrant

            I can see your point, IF your interpretation of Luke is correct.
            There are plenty of scholars who agree with BPS, that the “king” is a reference to Jesus himself.
            He did leave (to Heaven).
            He is hated by many of his subjects, who reject his reign.
            He expects us to use our gifts wisely for His kingdom while he is away.
            He will judge, and unbelievers will think the judgement harsh.

          • Trilemma

            I realize that the traditional interpretation of this parable is the ruler represents Jesus. But there are some problems with that interpretation. In this parable, the ruler commands his servants to collect usury or interest which is forbidden by Jewish law because it is considered unjust exploitation of others. The ruler is described as a hard man who gets rich off the efforts of others which doesn’t sound like Jesus. Plus, the traditional interpretation doesn’t really explain who the servant that buried his mina represents. He was neither punished nor rewarded. He ended up in the exact same condition he was in before being given a mina.

          • ncsugrant

            I think the traditional view still holds.
            There were many parables where Jesus pointed out the flawed Jewish laws.
            In several passages He admonishes His followers to make use of their gifts to further the kingdom.
            As for the servant who was neither punished nor rewarded, that sounds like someone who has faith in Jesus but does not put that faith into action. They may be saved, but they will not be rewarded.
            The translation about being a “hard man, who reaps what he has not sown” is a bit troubling.

            I do appreciate your perspective.

  • Kevin Quillen

    I am, always have been and will always be a number one guy.

  • Peadar_Ban

    I am number two, so far. But I cannot help thinking about those men on the shore in Libya.

  • Olaf

    Thanks for putting the present state in the right historic context. But your insight is very informative, not to say even a bit entertaining.

  • Pius XIII

    missed one. here, let me help you out:

    Support a civic religion of “neutrality” that will eventually eliminate all orthodox Christianity.

    You’re a Catholic in the years leading up to the fateful revolution of 1776. Life isn’t great in the 13 colonies for Catholics and you’d have already moved to Canada or Mexico if you’d had time to learn a new language, but you’re scraping out a subsistence farming in Maryland. Now a small elite of wealthy deist / practical agnostic landowners and n’er-do-well intellectuals are proposing the ideas of the rabidly anti-Catholic John Locke as the solution to getting out of contributing to the common good of the British Empire the small sum demanded of them in taxes. Contrary to the principles of Just War, they propose to revolt against the moderate & just King George III. Despite widespread loyalty to the Crown, they plan to use popular media to spread propaganda about “individual liberties” and “rights” to motivate the poor and middle class as soldiers.
    Do you:
    1. Publicly tell your neighbors this petty warmongering is unjust.
    2. Start associating with Quakers and other pacifist heretics as a way to stay “neutral”
    3. Become very interested in baptizing the “rights” language of Locke, even going so far as to question whether your personal conscience has superseded the Scholastic theory of “duties.”
    4. Say to heck with the Crown, because after all these brand new “rights” sound pretty good. You don’t blink when your sons go off to die for General Washington, because they’re individuals, free to pursue their own way with no thought for a duty to their family or a common good. As you grow old and gray alone, you console yourself that even though rights for Catholics were a brief hiccup in the history of your adopted home, you’re sure that in future years the Faith will be accepted – after all Catholics have reverenced the flag, burnt offerings known as “firecrackers” into the heavens in memory of our nation’s warlike nature, and promised not to make our neighbors uncomfortable with talk of the Last Things or criticizing their heretical error. Surely, an American president could be Catholic one day, even if he has to basically declare himself a Protestant in order to get there. Eventually Rome will understand that the American Constitution is a document worthy of reverence and one will be enshrined next to the tabernacle in every Catholic Church. The American flag is already on equal footing with the Vatican flag. One day…

    • Zmirak

      Maybe you should move to a Spanish colony, where the Inquisition is still operating. Or France, which unjustly expelled all its Protestants. Or one of the countless Continental tyrannies where at least JOHN LOCKE’s ideas aren’t in force. Oh, but it doesn’t matter that John Locke might have become anti-Catholic by meeting Huguenots who fled France rather than see their kids torn away from them for their religion. No, we’ll pretend that he was just an unmotivated bigot, because we’ve turned Catholicism into a political ideology. And that ideology is one that no one supports–not even the last five popes or the Catechism–so it’s safely immune to any reality test. It will literally NEVER be implemented, anywhere, so we can safely pretend that our economic nostrums like distributism (never tried anywhere, ever) would solve all our problems, then kick back and whine about everyone and everything, all the time, while feeling superior. Welcome to Catholic subculture tribalism, the intellectual answer to Renaissance Faires.

    • BPS

      Catholic roots of the Declaration of Independence

      The function of government

      Declaration of Independence: To secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

      Bellarmine: It is impossible for men to live together without someone to care for the common good. Men must be governed by someone lest they be willing to perish (De Laicis, c. 6).

      St. Thomas: To ordain anything for the common good belongs either to the whole people, or to someone who is the viceregent of the whole people (Summa, la llae, q. 90, a. 3).

      The source of power

      Declaration of Independence: Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

      Bellarmine: It depends upon the consent of the multitude to constitute over itself a king, consul, or other magistrate. This power is, indeed, from God, but vested in a particular ruler by the counsel and election of men (De Laicis, c. 6, notes 4 and 5). The people themselves immediately and directly hold the political power (De Clericis, c. 7).

      St. Thomas: Therefore the making of a law belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who has care of the whole people (Summa, la llae, q. 90, a. 3). The ruler has power and eminence from the subjects, and, in the event of his despising them, he sometimes loses both his power and position (De Erudit. Princ. Bk. I, c. 6).

      The right to change the government

      Declaration of Independence: Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government…Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient reasons.

      Bellarmine: For legitimate reasons the people can change the government to an aristocracy or a democracy or vice versa (De Laicis, c. 6). The people never transfers its powers to a king so completely but that it reserves to itself the right of receiving back this power (Recognitio de Laicis, c. 6).

      St Thomas: If any society of people have a right of choosing a king, then the king so established can be deposed by them without injustice, or his power can be curbed, when by tyranny he abuses his regal power (De Rege et Regno, Bk. I, c. 6).

  • Michael

    HELIOCENTRISM
    You are an adult Christian in the 1600’s. There is a growing heresy in the culture being perpetrated in Western Society by a physicist, philosopher, and mathematician by the name of Galileo that the earth revolves around the sun. Most scholars and scientists of the day affirm the Church’s geocentric teachings that go back to the Old Testament such as Psalm 93:1, 96:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30 which include text stating that “the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.” In the same manner, Psalm 104:5 says, “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Further, Ecclesiastes1:5 states that “And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.” Do You:

    1. Announce publicly that this new heresy is just as wicked and destructive as previous ones. Commit yourself to fighting against its public acceptance of the heliocentric model of the solar system and a new reinterpretation of the Bible.
    2. Quietly refuse to accede to these new views of heliocentric model of the solar system,. Join efforts to prevent it from becoming the normal view of the solar system. Offer discreet assistance and private support to those who chose option 1.
    3. Silently dissent from these new ideas, but keep it secret. To make up for your prudent choice not to rock the boat on all these issues, you promise to work extra hard to feed the poor or something.
    4. Become a public spokesman on the Church’s need to change its blinkered views on the structure of the solar syatem. whatever the cost to the rest of your witness on other issues that you care about. Even if it means you will lose donations, employment options, or friends, or your life.

  • Michael

    VALUE OF WOMEN

    You’re a Christian in America in 2017. The culture has now decided that the Church’s universal teaching on women being of lesser value than men, which goes back in its essentials to the Old Testament, is wrong. In fact, if you affirm it, you’re deemed a hatemonger. You are just as bad as the 1950s segregationists, who were just as bad as the Confederates. And they were just as bad as the Nazis. Billion-dollar companies are declaring organizations “hate groups” just for affirming what every Christian did as late as 1970’s. Do you:
    1. Announce publicly that this new heresy is just as wicked and destructive as previous ones. Commit yourself to fighting against its public acceptance of the equal value of women, whatever the cost to the rest of your witness on other issues that you care about. Even if it means you will lose donations, employment options, or friends
    2. Quietly refuse to accede to these new views of that women are just as valuable as men. Join efforts to prevent them from being enforced by the government. Offer discreet assistance and private support to those who chose option 1.
    3. Silently dissent from these new ideas, but keep it secret. To make up for your prudent choice not to rock the boat on all these issues, you promise to work extra hard to feed the poor or something.
    4. Become a public spokesman on the Church’s need to change its blinkered views on the value of women. Read the Bible selectively, with emphasis on the passages about “acceptance” and “forgiveness.” Accuse groups 1, 2, and 3 of being Pharisees. Don’t think too hard about the fact that now you’re in fact a Sadducee. You know, that group of Jews in Jesus’ time who picked and chose which parts of the Bible they believed in, and worked hand in glove with the pagan Roman occupiers.

    • Joshua Vig

      Your dishonest tactics may work with the uncatechized and uninformed. But anyone who knows the Faith can see your comments for what they are.

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